Vietnamese migrant group caught near Estonia

On Friday the State Border Guard detained another group of Vietnamese migrants being smuggled through the country, this time accompanied by a pair of Estonians now being held under suspicion of human trafficking, Border Guard spokesperson Kristīne Pētersone told LETA.

The arrest took place on the streets of provincial bordertown Alūksne as part of a planned operation, where a retrofitted cargo van driven by the Estonians was pulled over and searched, revealing a hiding place underneath its bed containing three citizens of Vietnam, two men and a woman.

Later the same afternoon with the help of canine units and a helicopter, not far from the Pededze river five more Vietnamese, part of the same group, were flushed out of the dense woods into the custody of the authorities.

Criminal proceedings have been opened against the two Estonians for illegally transporting a large group of persons across the state border.

The arrests Friday are the fifth incident in just two months involving a group of Vietnamese citizens attempting to cross into and through Latvia from Russia.

On September 20, thanks to tips by local residents near the Terehova and Gumiņišče village outskirts a group of eight Vietnamese, seven men and one woman, were detained along with their transporter, a Russian citizen.

On October 10 in Pasiene parish two vehicles driven by citizens of Kirghizstan were pulled over and searched, one of which held fourteen illegal border-crossers from Vietnam.

Then on October 31 a Latvian citizen and three non-citizens of Latvia were pulled over in their two cars, which turned out to be concealing another fourteen Vietnamese who had crossed the border illegally.

The most recent case happened on November 11 near the village of Šķaune, where six citizens of Vietnam were found hiding in an abandoned homestead. Later on the nearby highway two vehicles and their drivers, both citizens of Poland, were detained in connection with the illegal transportation of the group.

So far this year altogether 121 persons have been detained in connection with illegal border crossing, including 84 from Vietnam, 12 from Afghanistan, 11 from Iraq, 4 from Latvia and Russia each, 3 from Belarus, 2 from Georgia and 1 from Lithuania.

Of persons charged with human trafficking across the border, 7 are from Latvia, 3 from Russia, 3 from Kirghizstan, and 2 each from Poland and Estonia.

In 2013 only 65 persons were detained for crossing the border at points outside official Border Guard stations, 49 of whom were third-country citizens.

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